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Thursday, April 28, 2011 07:30 am

A bomb, a brunch and a barbershop chorus

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Land of Lincoln Barbershop Chorus sings at the Hoogland Sat. April 30.

How’s that for a titillating title? Somehow the alliteration came as the bits fit together for this week’s suggestions. I could add bells and bring in the May 7 Bells in Motion concert, but let’s save that for next week.

The bomb in question refers to the infamous pipe bomb tossed by an unknown agitator that set off what is known to history as the Haymarket Square affair, riot, occurrence or massacre depending on whose side you’re on. It happened May 4, 1886, in Chicago, like it or not becoming part of our state legacy with international repercussions. That day’s demonstration was by all accounts peaceful, though tensions between striking workers and Pinkerton guards ran high. Only a day before, police killed several workers during a confrontation at a called general strike in support of an eight-hour work week and other vital labor issues of 125 years ago.

When the bomb exploded near the rally’s end, police and workers enjoined in a brief but brutal battle resulting in several deaths and injuries on both sides. Leaders of the movement were arrested, tried and convicted, then executed or given life sentences all without any real proof of guilt. The incident, reported as caused by foreign anarchists intent on destroying our America, put decent labor conditions on hold for nearly 50 years. By 1890 May 1 became the international day of the worker partly because of the Haymarket tragedy. May Day came to be celebrated as a day to recognize the efforts of laborers worldwide.

Three years ago, local activists and concerned citizens began a festival in Springfield to commemorate this historical event closely tied to our area and to the world. This Sunday, May 1, from 4 to 9, the Haymarket Festival celebrates 125 years of labor achievements and struggles in America. Recent activities by certain state governments show the battle to defend rights of workers is far from over and in fact it may be more intense than ever. In celebration, the festival presents music (me, Sarah Schneider Band, Chris Maxey Trio) and speakers (Terry Reed, Aaron Berkowitz, Richard Gilman-Opalsky) along with other happenings as well. Come take a moment to acknowledge a pivotal event in the history of fair and decent treatment to those giving time toiling for others’ gain.

Next in our romp is a brunch, the annual Spring Jazz Brunch. The Springfield Jazz Society formed in the mid-80s and soon began the yearly brunch to honor local jazz musicians and support the genre in general while eating, drinking and being merry with jazz music. The party is at the Springfield Motor Boat Club on Sunday, May 1, from noon to 3:30 with music supplied by Slu’s Brunch Bunch of Terry Brennan (keyboards), John Miller (guitar), Jimmy Walker (saxophone), John Sluzalis (drums) and Nathan Carls (vocals). Call 217-414-2955 to make a reservation.  Attendance shows support of this exquisite American art form at its most local level. Come on kids, go get jazzed for a change.

The barbershop chorus part of our piece is actually a small, but very vocal portion of a much larger event at the Hoogland, Saturday, April 30, called a Musical Extravaganza. Joining the award-winning Land of Lincoln Chorus (directed by Mike Drake) are the Sound Celebration Chorus of Sweet Adelines (directed by Martha Eiter), Capital City Men’s Chorus (directed by Mary E. Myers), Menard County Singers (directed by Terri DePatis), Springfield Showstoppers youth group (directed by Pam Garcia) and your master of ceremonies for the evening, Mr. Gus Gordon. All the proceeds of this fabulous celebration of singing go to benefit the good work of the Center for the Arts.

Be good and be sure to back our burgeoning and bountiful arts community.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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